Manufacturer in mad rush to release 26,000 units of locally-made COVID-19 test kits

Kristine Sabillo ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 18 2020 07:47 PM

Philippine Genome Center deputy executive director Dr. Raul Destura presents a sample of the locally-developed COVID-19 test kit from the UP-National Institutes of Health during a press briefing on COVID-19 at the Philippine Genome Center in Quezon City on March 12, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The manufacturer of the Philippines’ first locally-made COVID-19 test kits is working round-the-clock to meet the government’s initial order of 26,000.

Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña posted on social media that the “UP-National Institutes of Health (UP-NIH), Philippine Genome Center, and The Manila HealthTek Inc. is producing and making available COVID-19 diagnostic kits good for 26,000 tests and additional quantities as would be needed by the Department of Health (DOH).”

In a phone interview, Healthtek Sales and Marketing Director Maria Carmen Ocampo told ABS-CBN News that they have been commissioned to manufacture the kits, which will eventually be distributed to hospitals that have the capacity to run the test.

However, they still need to wait for the results of their field testing within two to three weeks.

“We will only start distribution of the kits once we get the go signal from FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” she said. 

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The FDA earlier gave the SARS-CoV-2 PCR Detection Kit, which was developed by scientists from the UP-NIH and the Philippine Genome Center with the help of DOST, a Certificate of Exemption so it can immediately undergo field testing. After that, the FDA can review it and give its approval.

The kits are currently being tested at the Philippine General Hospital, The Medical City and the Makati Medical Center, said Ocampo. They initially wanted it tested in Visayas and Mindanao but they could not push through because of logistical problems.

Sample of the locally-developed COVID-19 test kit from the UP-National Institutes of Health as presented during a press briefing on COVID-19 at the Philippine Genome Center in Quezon City on March 12, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

Healthtek is using its automated robots to produce more test kits for stockpiling. Ocampo said they want to be ready as soon as they get approval since a lot of groups are already inquiring with them.

“We’ll be able to do it (meet the demand). The only bottleneck is the importation of raw materials,” she said.

The initial order of 26,000 kits would be enough for around 20,800 to 22,880 people. Ocampo explained that 25 kits can run the tests for 20 to 22 people.

Since the spike of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, the public has been clamoring for more test kits to allow more people to be tested. For now, those with severe cases and pre-existing conditions are being prioritized. 

As of Wednesday afternoon, there are a total of 202 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines. Of that number, 7 have recovered and 17 have died.